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Fribourg voters say yes please to one hour’s free parking

Fribourg car park
Parking spaces bring in CHF4.1 million a year for the city of Fribourg. Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Voters in the Swiss city of Fribourg have approved a municipal initiative making the first hour of parking free.

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The initiative was put forward by the Artists’ Party, professional associations and the automobile association Touring Club Switzerland (TCS), with the support of a broad right-wing coalition.

The initiative passed with 57.7% of the vote on Sunday after a campaign that pitted the advocates of car accessibility in the city centre against those of soft mobility.

The outcome came as something of a surprise in a municipality with a left-wing majority. Fribourg mayor Thierry Steiert said he “took note” of the people’s decision. “We will endeavour to draw up regulations in line with the initiative within the next two years,” he said.

At the end of February, the city’s legislature rejected the initiative by 44 votes to 21. The text is “not in line with climate objectives and could attract more vehicles and nuisances”, it said. What’s more, the loss of revenue from parking meters and fines could amount to CHF3 million ($3.3 million) a year, according to the local council.

+ Swiss cars are getting bigger – the parking spaces aren’t

Those councillors in favour of the initiative had stressed the need “to maintain the attractiveness of the cantonal capital”. In addition, shopkeepers and restaurant owners in the city centre mentioned during the campaign that the difficulty of finding a parking space in the heart of the city was penalising their sales.

In mid-April, the committee behind the initiative denounced the executive’s “dogmatism” on parking issues. In a bid to revitalise the local economy, it also contested the figure of CHF3 million in lost revenue for the municipal coffers.

‘Arsenal of prohibitive measures’

The event that triggered the launch of an initiative in favour of motorists was the council’s decision to extend the hours of paid parking from 7.30am to 12pm and from 1pm to 7.30pm from Monday to Saturday. The executive had previously indicated that it did not wish to do this.

Parking spaces bring in CHF4.1 million a year for the city of Fribourg. The initiators argued that some businesses had suffered a 20% drop in turnover in recent years as a result of the “arsenal of prohibitive measures put in place by the authorities” with regard to parking.

Turnout on Sunday was around 47%.

Translated from French by DeepL/ts

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